European business leaders join the Commission in growing call for urgent hike in research spending

November 18, 2002

Brussels, 15 Nov 2002

European business leaders have added their voices to calls for increased research efforts to strengthen EU competitiveness, economic growth and employment.

The call came during a panel discussion organised by the Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederations in Europe (UNICE) on 'Challenges for lifting European R&D [research and development] expenditure from 1.9 per cent to three per cent of GDP' at the conference to launch the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) in Brussels.

The panel featured EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin, UNICE President Georges Jacobs; Michel Deleau, Director at the European Investment Bank (EIB); Daniel Janssen, Chairman of the European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT) competitiveness working group; Fred von Dewall, Chief Economist of the ING Group; and Yannis Tzavaras, General Manager of new ventures at Intracom.

Commissioner Busquin stressed that: 'Industrial research is increasingly taking on a European and even global dimension. Fragmented initiatives, isolated national research systems and disparities between legal and administrative systems are taking their toll on R&D investment.'

'The three per cent objective and the European Research Area are both central to restoring confidence in the knowledge-based economy and to boosting growth based on more and better R&D initiatives,' said Mr Busquin.

UNICE President Georges Jacobs added that the three per cent objective that was set by the March 2002 Barcelona European Council 'will only be achieved if Europe radically improves European centres of excellence, skills and education, builds a more supportive regulatory environment for R&D and innovation, a coherent approach across EU policies, and a strong and vibrant public research sector. Cross-sector policies such as education and regional policies have major implications for R&D investment, which have to be assessed.'

The Commission communication 'More Research for Europe - Towards 3% of GDP' states that 'two thirds of this investment should come from the business sector.

The panel concluded that extensive reconsideration of how to promote R&D and innovation is desperately needed. It stressed that Europe needs to change its current policies and practices to achieve this target.

Participants explained that a coherent European approach should help coordinate R&D policies of the 15 EU Member States and that R&D policy also needs to be consistent with other policies such as competition, the environment and education.

EIB Director Michel Deleau said: 'The European Investment Bank has made R&D the centre-piece of its ongoing 'innovation initiative', which is bound to remain a key objective for EIB lending in the years to come. A particular focus will be on supporting private R&D, by small as well as large companies, and on fine-tuning its financial instruments to the needs of the research sector. The European Investment Fund, an EIB affiliate, will continue to support universities and research centres in the creation of investment funds and new tools, and in the provision of consulting services. In doing so, it aims to reinforce research and bridge the gap between research and product development.'

Daniel Janssen, Chairman of the European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT) competitiveness working group concluded: 'Achieving the three per cent target is crucial to securing the major improvements needed to strengthen EU competitiveness, economic growth and employment. However, the three per cent objective would become unrealistic if the dramatic reappraisal it implies cannot be rapidly achieved all over Europe.'

To see the Commission communication, please visit: http://europa.eu.int/comm/research/era/l istcom_en.html

CORDIS RTD-NEWS/© European Communities, 2001

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